The Christ Candle

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FIVE CANDLES AT CHRISTMAS (An Advent Wreath Sermon Series)
“The Christ Candle” (Luke 2:1-7)

INTRODUCTION: There are many passages we could read for Christmas Eve, but this passage from Luke is one of my favorites. When I was a kid my Dad always read to us from the gospel of Luke on Christmas Eve, and we would start with these verses from Luke 2. We would read about Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem, about Jesus being born in the manger, about the angels appearing to the shepherds in the fields, about the shepherds visiting the baby in the manger and then going to forth to tell the whole town the glorious story that Jesus Christ is born. It was a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas Eve before going to bed in anticipation of Christmas morning. (Read Luke 2:1-7 and pray)

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Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and we have gathered to celebrate in song, to worship in prayer and to focus on Christ at Christmas.

One of our Christmas traditions here at Plantation Community is the Advent wreath. Each Sunday of Advent we light an additional candle on the wreath in anticipation of Christmas. That’s usually just a small part of our Advent celebration, but this Advent season we did something a little different.

For our Advent messages on Sunday mornings, we also used the various candles on the Advent wreath as the themes for our messages. For example, the first advent candle represents hope, so the first Sunday of Advent we looked at hope in light of Christmas and the Christmas story. The second candle represents peace, so the second Sunday we looked at peace and how it relates to Christmas. And then we did the same for the third and fourth advent candles which represent joy and love.

But you may have noticed there’s one candle left on the wreath, and that is the center candle, also called the Christ candle. The Christ candle is saved for last and lit on either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. And so this being Christmas Eve we have lit all four outside candles as well as the center candle in celebration of Christmas.

The Christ candle is in the center because the Christ candle reminds us that Jesus is the center of Christmas. The four outer candles are all important, but they only make sense with Jesus at the center. Yes, Christmas is a time of hope, peace, joy and love, but once again, this is only because of Jesus. And so tonight I want us to look at Jesus as the center of Christmas, and how we only have real hope, peace, joy and love in our lives because of him.

I. There is no real hope without Christ

So, let’s talk about hope first. Jesus is the center of Christmas because there is no real hope without Christ. When we looked at the advent candle of hope, we saw that hope in Christ gets you through the waiting. We saw that hope in Christ helps you go the distance. And we saw that hope in Christ does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5) All real hope in the world is centered on Christ.

We also learned that the whole advent season is all about hope and anticipation. It’s about the people of the Old Testament waiting all those long years for Christ to come. And it’s also about us who are waiting and longing for Christ’s return. God promised to send Jesus the first time, and he did. God has promised to send Jesus a second time, and he will.

Christmas is all about hope because it’s all about Christ. Because God sent his Son into the world, you and I have hope. We have hope for today because Christ is with us. We have hope for tomorrow because Christ will never leave us. And we have hope for eternity, because Christ is coming back to take us to be with him forever.

Too many people live without hope today because they live without Christ. And so that’s the first reason Jesus is the center of Christmas, because all real hope is found in him. There is no real hope without Christ.

II. There is no real peace without Christ

And then secondly Jesus is the center of Christmas because there is no real peace without Christ. Once again, when we looked at the advent candle of peace we saw that Jesus brings peace with God – that Jesus came to save us from our sins so that we could be restored to right relationship with God. We saw that Jesus brings peace with self – that when you trust Christ, you enjoy a wonderful peace in your heart, a personal peace that is unlike anything you can find in the world. We saw that Jesus brings peace with others – that when you put Christ first and pray for your relationships, Jesus reconciles those relationships and allows you to live in peace with those around you. And then finally we saw that Jesus will bring peace on earth – that when Christ returns he will rule over this world in peace. All wars and conflicts will cease and even the world of nature and animals will be at peace with each other. All true peace in the world is centered on Christ.

Our world is sadly lacking peace today because our world is lacking Christ. The religious leaders of this world won’t bring you peace. The political leaders of this world won’t bring you peace. The pop psychologists of this world won’t bring you peace. All the drugs and medication in the world won’t bring you real peace.

Only Jesus brings true and lasting peace. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Savior who came to bring peace between you and God. He is the coming King who comes to reign in peace over all the earth.

The angels who announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds out in the fields sang songs of peace on earth, goodwill towards men. And so that is a second reason Jesus is the center of Christmas, because Jesus brings peace. There is no real peace without Christ.

III. There is no real joy without Christ

And then thirdly, there is no real joy without Christ. When we looked at the advent candle of joy, we saw that Jesus brings the joy of salvation – that there is no real joy without salvation, and no real salvation without joy. We also saw that joy leads to proclamation – good news is for sharing – and that joy leads to praise. We saw that all true joy in the world is centered on Christ.

Once again, when the angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds, they not only sang songs of peace in the sky. They proclaimed good news of great joy for all the people. After the shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Jesus in the manger, they were so full of joy they ran out into the night to tell everyone that Christ was born. They couldn’t wait until morning! And they were so filled with joy in sharing that good news of Christmas that they returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

This world offers a lot of entertainment, a lot of excitement, a lot of thrills, but very little joy. Joy is deeper than happiness. Happiness is temporary and dependent on circumstances. But Jesus offers you a joy that transcends your circumstances. Christmas is not always a happy time for people. Especially if we have lost someone close to us, it colors the season for us. But Jesus offers you a joy that will sustain you even in your deepest sorrows. True joy doesn’t mean you will never be sad. It means that even in your saddest hours, God is with you, you can trust him, and therefore you can have joy.

And so that is a third reason Jesus is the center of Christmas, because Jesus brings a joy that is deeper than happiness and even deeper than our sorrows. There is no real joy without Christ.

IV. There is no real love without Christ

And then the fourth reason Jesus is the center of Christmas is that there is no real love without Christ. When we looked at the advent candle of love, we saw Joseph’s love for Mary as he looked out for her best interests even when he thought she had been unfaithful to him. We saw Mary’s love for Jesus as she wrapped the baby in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger. We saw God’s love for sinners in sending his own Son into the world as a sacrifice for our sins. And we saw our love for others which is a natural response to God’s love for us.

When we say that there is no real love without Christ, we’re not saying that you can’t love your family or be loving towards others unless you’re a Christian. There are many people who do not follow Christ who are still very loving people. But what we are saying is this: whether you realize it or not, your love for others is only possible because of Jesus, because Jesus is the Son of God. And you cannot experience or express fullness of love without Christ.

The Bible tells us that God is love, and that all love comes from God. (1 John 4:7-8) Before God ever created the world, there was God and there was love. God loved his Son Jesus, and Jesus loved God the Father. God and Jesus both loved the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit loved the Father and the Son. God is love because from all of eternity there has always been a perfect relationship between the three persons of the Trinity – one God, three persons in a perfect relationship of harmony and love.

When God created the world, that love God has for himself in the persons of the Trinity spilled over onto us. It’s like tracing a stream back to its source. You hike through the woods following the stream for hours until you find the lake or spring that is feeding the stream. When you see any act or expression of love in this world, and you trace it back to the source, you will always find God. God is the source of all love in this world. Every act of love in this world finds its source in him. God is love, and all love comes from him.

The story of Christmas is all about love, because Christmas is all about Jesus. The Bible says: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

The baby born in Bethlehem grew to be a man. He lived a perfect life with no sin. He went to the cross and died a horrible death. And the Bible tells us why he did all this. He did it for you and for me. God sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. That’s why he came. That’s why he lived. That’s why he died. And that’s why he rose again – so he could be our Savior forever and rescue us from sin and Satan and death.

This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his Son. And so that’s the fourth reason Jesus is the center of Christmas, because God is love, and all love comes from him. There is no real love without Christ.

CONCLUSION: Let me close with an illustration to help us pull all this together. One of the things I miss about living up north is a fire in the fireplace. There’s something about a fire in the fireplace that is so soothing, so pleasing, especially around Christmas time. I miss it so much that we sometimes turn the TV on to the “Fireplace Channel.” That’s right, there is an actual channel which simply broadcasts a fire in a fireplace on your TV screen twenty-four hours a day. We just leave it on in the living room to get the feel of a fireplace in the home.

What is it that people love about a fire in the fireplace? It’s the whole experience, isn’t it? The light that the fire sheds, the warmth that the fire brings, the scent of the burning wood and the crackling of the embers – these all combine to make it such a beautiful experience. But you can’t have all those things without the fire. The things we love about the fire come from the fire, and the fire is at the center of the light, the warmth, the scent and the crackling.

It’s the same with Christ at Christmas. We all want hope, peace, joy and love, but some people seem to want them without Jesus. It’s like wanting the light, warmth, scent and crackling of the fire in the fireplace without the fire. It doesn’t work that way. Just as the fire is central to all the good things about the fire, so Christ is central to Christmas. Hope, peace, joy and love come from him. He is the center, and we only enjoy the good things of Christmas because of him.

And so as you watch the Christ candle burning this evening in the center of all the other candles, remember that Christ is central. He is the reason for Christmas. He is the one who brings true hope, peace, joy and love for us all. And so let us draw near to him to worship, to praise, to follow and believe. O come let us adore Him! O Come Let Us Adore Him! O COME LET US ADORE HIM! HE IS CHRIST THE LORD!!!

Click here for more messages from the Five Candles at Christmas series.
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